Friday, June 13, 2008

Freestyle Friday

WHAT'S THIS I SEE? Why, it's that rarest of occurrences: a New York Yankees game on Free-TV. Must be Friday the 13th. Taking the mound against the Houston Astros, one Joba Chamberlain. But more on that later.

Tim Russert died this afternoon. Russert's the NBC news guy who hosted Meet the Press on Sunday mornings for a long time, wrote some books about his old man, moderated some debates, and used to appear regularly on the Imus radio show, where he came across as a regular guy. I haven't listened to Imus for more than about an hour combined since he first came back, so I couldn't tell you if they patched things up, although I think I read somewhere that they did. Russert died at 4:07 pm, so congratulations to all of you who had that time in your Celebrity Death office pools.

This is what is known on the Internets as Live Blogging, as opposed to your more traditional Taped Blogging, or Previously Recorded Blogging. And yes, this Post was filmed in front of a live studio audience, just like all your classic Odd Couple episodes.

The Willie Watch is on: Daily News reported on its Website that the Mets manager will be terminated this weekend -- well, not that he will be executed, it's just they will fire him from his job. Although for some fed-up, unhinged Mets fans the former would be infinitely more satisfying, judging from the venom and rancor they seem to work up, at least if calls to WFAN are any indication. Willie, you're better off getting out of there. At 31-34, with just under 100 games remaining in the season, it ain't getting much better any time soon over in Flushing.

The Phillies are on a major roll, and now sit perched in first, 7 1/2 games in front of the Metropolitans as we speak, or as you listen, take your pick. And while their stellar 2B Chase Utley would seem a no-brainer of an MVP pick (.313, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs), there's another 2B, in the same division, who's having an amazing season at the plate: Dan Uggla of the upstart Florida Marlins (36-30) is hitting .298, with 18 HRs and 48 RBIs, including some unbelievable recent clutch hits. I think it's a battle of the killer U's at 2B for NL MVP -- but if Met fans favorite Larry Jones (.414, 15 HRs) can remain healthy and his Braves in contention, then the nation may indeed turn its lonely eyes to Chipper and his assault on the unthinkable .400.

If Utley wins, it will make the Phillies the first team since the early-1960s Yankees to have 3 consecutive MVP winners: first Ryan Howard in 2006, then Jimmy Rollins last year. Yanks did it with Roger Maris-Mickey Mantle-Elston Howard.

In fact, Philly is leading 20-2 tonight over the Cardinals. Missed extra point, safety. Actually, Utley has a HR and 3 RBI, Howard has 2 and 5 RBI.

Speaking of unbelievable years, no Yankee fan, no baseball fan, no hairy Himalayan shaman saw this coming: Johnny Damon hitting .320, with 6 HRs, 31 RBIs, 11 steals! C'mon!

Hidecki Matsui, that's another story. Hitting .322, another solid year, and yesterday, his birthday, he had a grand slam to propel the Yankees to their 4-1 win over Oakland. Now we'll see if they can stay above .500. They've been at the .500 mark something like 25 times already this season. Maybe that's what they are: mediocre. A long way to go, so we'll find out if the pitching holds up.

I guess I owe Iron Mike Mussina an apology. I more than wrote him off earlier this year on this very blog. He's leading the AL in wins with 9, or he's right up there, pitching with guts and moxie. If he keeps this up, he gets his first 20-win season, and then people will start thinking of him as a Hall of Famer. He's already got 259 wins lifetime. Now that I'm praising him, I'm sure he will go into the tank again. This is what's known as the official WardensWorld Jinx. But seriously, if you go back into the archives, you will find me right way more often than wrong when it comes to just about everything. And I'm sure you wouldn't have it any other way.

How about those Lakers! Did you read about this, did you hear about this. They were right on the verge last night of evening the NFL Finals at 2 games apiece with one more game left on their home court. They had a 24-point lead after one quarter -- a record for those keeping score at home -- and were coasting along, but then the Celtics turned on the defensive screws. They switched Paul Pierce onto Kobe Bryant, and that totally bottled up the supremely annoying Lakers star in the second half. The Lakers as a result were held to a measly 36 total points in the half, and that ain't getting it done even in the WNBA -- you know, the basketball league that doesn't currently have a long shadow of suspicion cast over the integrity of its game officials.

No one could possibly be enjoying David Stern's misery more than me; it's just not bleedin' possible. Call it Schadenfreude if you must, I call it messin' with the kid.

Yanks up 1-0 after 3 innings. Joba threw just 19 pitches through 2, got into a slight jam in the 3rd, but this is his best start of the 3 so far.

By the way, Minute Maid Park, where the Astros play, looks like the ultimate HR hitters park. For one thing, it's 315 feet down the leftfield line. Then there's the low wall, a la the old Tigers Stadium. Now, centerfield at its deepest is a mammoth 436 feet away, plus there's the cool hill out there. Michael Kay just said that in the last 3-game series here against the Brewers there were 17 HRs flying out of the yard, 10 by Milwaukee.

Maybe some of the slumping Yank hitters can get well against this poor Astros pitching staff. Tonight it's the immortal Shawn Chacon, the ex-Yank himself. Let's face it. Derek Jeter is having a subpar season, maybe his worst as a pro: .272, 3 HRs, 27 RBI, just 4 SBs.

Robinson Cano, I don't know what happened here. My pick for the next Rod Carew is hitting in the very low .200's. Maybe they should send has butt down to the minors for a few weeks, maybe he needs a good kick in the ass. But that's just me, I'm Old School to the bone.

Yankees announcer Michael Kay just said on the air (of course it was on the air, he's not sitting here next to me, although funny story: I once sat next to him in a Manhattan restaurant called Angels on I believe 60th Street off 1st avenue, not that me and Mike were hanging, I was with my date, he was with his, but I literally heard every word he said the entire meal, including how he thinks Steinbrenner really likes him and how he used to have a severe Diet Coke addiction, at one point guzzling one can every half inning, for a total of 18 every game) that is reporting that Willie Randolph has this weekend to get the Mets ship turned around, otherwise it's curtains -- a slight spin on the Daily News story that claims he's in "grave danger" of getting sacked this weekend.

Of course, if "closer" Billy Wagner hadn't blown 3 straight saves over the past week, and 5 on the year, maybe we're not having this discussion, and by we I mean us.

And while we're at it, Billy Boy, maybe next time someone sticks a mike in your mug and asks why the Mets lost you won't call out your teammates for their failures; instead here's an idea: just say nothing or better yet shut the fuck up altogether. Dang fool.

Astros 1B Lance Berkman also has to get serious NL MVP consideration. He's hitting .359 with 19 HRs and 57 RBI. But Houston's 10 games behind the Cubs in their division, and that's not gonna help him any.

Last year's AL MVP, Alex Rodriguez, has a long way to go if he's gonna make another run at it. He is starting to get hot, and entering the game he was 12 for his last 25. He's hitting .318 with 10 HRs and 33 RBIs, not bad considering the time he spent on the DL.

Just saw disgraced, failed politician Rudy 'Nosferatu' Giuliani at the Yanks-Astros game, sitting first row behind directly home plate. His snarled mouth is going a mile a minute, bringing to mind a spin on a familiar old adage: How do you know he's full of absolute shit, because his name is Rudy Giuliani.

Yanks-'Stros tied at 1-1 now. The immortal Ty Wiggington just knocked in his 11th run of the season. You can't stop Ty, you can only hope to contain him.

Back to the NBA, my impression from watching parts of the first 4 games is that Kevin Garnett, as much of an impact as he has on a game rebounding and playing defense, just cannot shoot the basketball. I mean, he's not all-time bad like Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman --- completely bereft of offensive game -- but it gets ugly around when he has the rock in his hand and starts trying to, ahem, "maneuver" around the lane for a shot attempt. Garnett has hoisted up some of the fugliest shots you're gonna see outside of a New York City playground.

After the devastating loss, Kobe was asked how he and his teammates would bounce back for Game 5. He responded with some of the more bizarre comments you're likely to hear in any sport or in any context period except perhaps for Washington politics:

"We'll whine about it tonight," Kobe began. "A lot of wine, a lot of beer, a lot of shots, maybe 20 of 'em," he continued. But the bratty Bryant was just getting started.

"We just wet the bed," Bryant told reporters. "A nice big one too. One of the ones you can't put a towel over. It was terrible."

Didn't Kobe predict this Lakers team as presently constituted was gonna win 3 or 4 titles before he retires? Better get started, or better yet get Bavetta.

Hatred of Kobe and Phil Jackson and all things Los Angeles and Laker over the years (except for the Wilt Chamberlain teams in the '70s) is the only conceivable reason I find myself rooting for the Boston Celtics, or any team from Boston for that matter. The frontrunning L.A. fans, celebrity and otherwise, are enough to turn the stomach.

Speaking of which, did you catch what my fellow blogger Curt Schilling wrote about Bryant the other day? Let's just say it wasn't very complimentary toward the pampered prick. Schilling attended Game 2 in Boston wearing a Larry Bird #33 jersey, and then the next day on his blog 38pitches, in a long post that begins with a little baseball talk, the injured Red Sock offers the following observation about Bryant:
From the first tip until about 4 minutes left in the game I saw and heard this guy bitch at his teammates. Every TO he came to the bench pissed, and a few of them he went to other guys and yelled about something they weren’t doing, or something they did wrong. No dialog about “hey let’s go, let’s get after it” or whatever. He spent the better part of 3.5 quarters pissed off and ranting at the non-execution or lack of, of his team. Then when they made what almost was a historic run in the 4th, during a TO, he got down on the floor and basically said ‘Let’s f’ing go, right now, right here” or something to that affect. I am not making this observation in a good or bad way, I have no idea how the guys in the NBA play or do things like this, but I thought it was a fascinating bit of insight for me to watch someone in another sport who is in the position of a team leader and how he interacted with his team and teammates. Watching the other 11 guys, every time out it was high fives and “Hey nice work, let’s get after it” or something to that affect. He walked off the floor, obligatory skin contact on the high five, and sat on the bench stone faced or pissed off, the whole game. Just weird to see another sport and how it all works. I would assume that’s his style and how he plays and what works for him because when I saw the leader board for scoring in the post season his name sat up top at 31+ a game, can’t argue with that. But as a fan I was watching the whole thing, Kobe, his teammates and then the after effects of conversations. He’d yell at someone, make a point, or send a message, turn and walk away, and more than once the person on the other end would roll eyes or give a ‘whatever dude’ look.
That's some good stuff right there. Imagine if famous people in history had their own blogs where they could let off steam or get off a good insult and in an instant the world would know their feelings. If only Bill Gates was born a few millennia earlier. Or was it Al Gore?

Still 1-1 bottom 6, Joba still in the game in humid Houston. Make that after 6, Chamberlain just got through the inning. Posada just threw out a base runner; I think Michael Kay said it was his first caught stealing of the year.

A few absolute must-reads if you're at all curious about that fateful Game 2 Playoff Game between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings in 2002 that is the center of controversy. Corrupt ref Tim Donaghy has pointed to that game as evidence that the league goes out of its way to favor the teams it wants to advance in the playoffs, singling out veteran ref Dick Bavetta as the leading henchman. In an article titled "On Further Review, That Game Was Badly Officiated," New York Times sports media columnist Richard Sandomir went back to the videotape to watch a replay of that game, and what he found was

"...a master class in bad calls, missed calls and miscalls that was sloppy enough to undermine the notion that it was planned ineptitude.

It didn’t require Donaghy’s accusations to divine that Dick Bavetta, Ted Bernhardt and Bob Delaney had a lousy game, and that their work might have led to the Kings losing, 106-102. Their night of underachievement caused outrage in Sacramento and prompted Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post to write, “I have never seen officiating in a game of consequence as bad as that in Game 6."
Sandomir phoned Bill Walton, who called the game on TV that night in 2002, for a comment. Despite a litany of bad calls, Walton wouldn't call it a league-orchestrated campaign that favors the teams with the superstars. Instead, the gutless Walton cops out by saying, “Referees have bad games. They’re human.” Well, as Sandomir wittily puts it:

"Their humanity was well-displayed that night in 2002, primarily in the second half." Well said.

Derek Jeter just hit his 4th HR of the season, a 390-foot shot according to Ken Singleton, also over the air, giving the Yanks a 2-1 lead. See how it works, I call a guy out, he proves me wrong. Good thing like Superman I use this power only for good. That's Jeter's 190th career homer, and he's coming up on 2,500 career hits. And Jeter's HR was the 97th allowed by Astros pitchers this season. We're full of useless facts tonight.

The Back Page, a sports blog on the New York Post website, today pointed out that back in 2002, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote about the questionable officiating in the Kings-Lakers Game 6 that year, citing it as part of a pattern he called the "most disturbing subplot of the last four playoffs". Simmons then lists some of the more shady, suspicious playoff games he had seen dating to 1999. Going back to a 2000 Miami Heat-New York Knick Game 7, he writes:
Knicks advance to the conference finals ... falling out of bounds, Latrell Sprewell awarded a timeout by referee Bennett Salvatore with 2.1 seconds left even though none of the Knicks called for one ... Sprewell admits after the game that he hadn't called a timeout ... the Miami players chase the referees off the court after the game, yelling that they had been robbed ... after the game, Jamal Mashburn tells reporters, "They had three officials in their pocket" and Tim Hardaway refers to referee Dick Bavetta as "Knick Bavetta."
Then Simmons on the now-notorious Lakers-Kings Game 6 in 2002:
LA needs a win to stay alive ... from an officiating standpoint, the most one-sided game of the past decade ... at least six dubious calls against the Kings in the fourth quarter alone ... LA averaged 22 free throws a game during the first five games of the series, then attempted 27 freebies in the fourth quarter alone of Game 6.
What Simmons didn't mention, or didn't realize at the time, is a chilling fact that someone called The Sports Guy points out on The Back Page about the seven games Simmons classified as suspicious or possibly crooked: "Dick Bavetta was assigned to every one of the above games."
Anyway, chew on that for a while. Let me call it a post now.

It's still 2-1 Yanks, top of the 9th. I'm about to switch over to radio hoping for a patented Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees Win! call by John Sterling. He may butcher 4 or 5 HR calls a game, but he'll always have his trademark game closer. Then again, get this: the Yanks are using Kyle Farnsworth as their closer tonight, giving Mariano a rest. So it looks like I may not get to hear that Yankees Win! call after all.

1 comment:

jimithegreek said...

good one. i almost choked when joe brought in farnsworthless. i think i dislike kobe more than boston. willie is getting thrown under the bus for omar's dominican style!